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Tripwire: Valve "absolutely not" exploiting indies with Steam

Every publisher has conflicts of interest, says co-founder

Tripwire Interactive co-founder and president John Gibson has defended Valve following Randy Pitchford's accusation its Steam service exploits small developers, saying if it wasn't for Steam he wouldn't have a company.

"Is Valve exploiting independent developers? In short: absolutely not. Without pulling any punches I can say with certainly that if it weren't for Steam there would be no Tripwire Interactive right now," he told Gamasutra.

Gibson also dismisses Pitchford's suggestion that as a Valve venture Steam has a "horrid" conflict of interest, saying that while a potential conflict could arise, it hasn't proven to be a problem.

"We've never had a situation where Valve downplayed our competing titles," he said. "On the contrary, they have done a great job of promoting our games on the front page of the Steam store and through pop-up advertisements on Steam."

"The reality is almost every publisher/distributor has some conflict of interest," he added. "Standard bricks-and-mortar driven publishers have their own first-party titles. If they are publishing a first-party title in the same genre as your third-party title, most will either refuse to work with you, or will give your game a much lower priority for funding, advertising and marketing."

Valve response to this situation is unique, reckons Gibson. "Rather than say, 'I don't want to sell your game, because it's a competitor to our game,' Valve says, 'Our game is good, and so is yours, so let's both make some money together.' The attitude is if the game is good, they'll sell it."

The royalty rates offered through Steam distribution can be far superior to those offered by publishers too, said Gibson, who used Steam to distribute his studio's first game Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 after being offered "terrible" deals by potential traditional publishing partners.

"With deals like those, we were wondering how any third-party developer could be successful in the game industry. Under the terms of that deal, we would have needed to sell hundreds of thousands of units before we would have seen one cent of royalties," he said.

The studio subsequently recouped its development costs for Red Orchestra within the first week of going on sale, making pure profit from that point onwards.

"Three years and two games later, we've built our company in large part on top of selling our games on Steam," said Gibson.

"If that's exploitation, I'll take a little more."